What happened in the Dead Sea that proved that David was a man after God's own heart?
We're going to continue our study of the faith of King David, trying to understand how he who was an adulterer and murderer could be described in the Bible as a man after God's own heart. We will continue looking at three examples from King David's life which demonstrate that he did indeed have a deep relationship with God.
There is a third event in David's life that clearly demonstrated his intimacy with the Lord. For that story, we must look towards the Dead Sea.
A large marker stone was placed by the Dead Sea many years ago to mark the lowest point on the surface of the earth. When I first came to Israel in the 1970's it read 1,291 feet below sea level. But, if we were to bring this marker up to date, first of all we would have to move it a quarter of a mile down and then we would have to change the reading to 1,378 feet. That's a drop of 87 feet since the 1970!
The reason for that drop is the Dead Sea is rapidly receding. It's receding because it receives very little water anymore. The reason for that is that the water coming down from the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River is pulled out on both sides by the Israelis and the Jordanians and used for irrigation.
The Dead Sea is 42 miles long and 11 miles wide. It is still over 1,000 feet deep despite the fact that its level is dropping rapidly. Its mineral and salt content is so high that nothing can live in it. As a result, it is a dismal body of water surrounded by a barren wilderness.
If you were in the Dead Sea part of Israel, the only thing you would think of is water, not the Dead Sea water, but drinking water. The heat there is so oppressive that one can die of dehydration very quickly.
King David used to come to the Dead Sea frequently to hide out from King Saul. When he was in the area, he was always thinking about water. Amazingly, there is still to this day an abundant supply of fresh water at a place called Ein Gedi. Ein Gedi is located just up a long path dotted by ibex, often seen because they graze in the area.
Isn't it amazing to find such an abundant supply of fresh water out there in the middle of a terrible wasteland? The water comes from two spring-fed streams. And, just think, it's been flowing for over 3,000 years!
Often when David was pursued by his enemies, like King Saul, David would flee out into the area, knowing that water was there. But, so did King Saul, and often the king would cut him off so that David and his Mighty Men ended up in the desert, living in caves, with only the water that they had brought with them. After David was crowned the king of Judah but before he was crowned the king of all of Israel, the Philistines attacked both Hebron and Bethlehem and drove him out of those towns. He began to flee in this direction, but they knew of this desert fresh water, so they cut him off. David and his Mighty Men were left stranded out in the desert, living in caves using only the water they had brought with them.
One night, as David and his Mighty Men sat around the camp fire, David grew nostalgic. He began to think about his hometown of Bethlehem and sort of in an off-hand nostalgic moment he said, "You know what I would like more than anything else in the world right now? I would like a taste of the water from the well in my home town of Bethlehem." After saying that, he crawled into a cave and went to sleep.
His Mighty Men looked at each other and said, "Well, if that's what David wants, that's what David's going to get!" And so, three of them spent the rest of the night going across the desert, sneaking through the Philistine lines at the threat of their lives, and getting a pail of water. They had to come back through the Philistine lines again, and march back across the desert.
The next morning, when David got up, he looked off into the sunrise and he stretched and he rubbed the sleepy from his eyes, and then he looked down and there were three of his Mighty Men sitting with silly grins on their faces. He looked at them and he asked, "What's up, guys?" They said, "David, look by your feet." When David looked down, he saw a pail of water. He asked of his men, "What is this?" They replied, "David, that is a pail of water from your hometown of Bethlehem." He said "You mean, you went across the desert last night and risked your lives to get this water for me?" And they said, "Yes, David, that's what you said you wanted."
Without even thinking, instinctively, David reached down, picked up the pail of water, and before the astonished eyes of his men, he poured the water out on the ground as a drink offering to Almighty God. Then he said to his men, "This water is too valuable to drink. The only thing that can be done with it is to give it as a sacrifice to God." Wow, that's what I call a man with a heart for God!
What Made David Different
People always ask, "How could David be considered a 'man after God's own heart,' when he was such a sinner? After all, he committed adultery with Bathsheba, he lied about it, and then he arranged to have her husband killed."
The answer is that David was human like you and me. And, like you and me, he was a sinner who sinned mightily. But, he never made excuses for his sin, nor did he wallow in sin, as did his son Solomon. When he sinned, David always turned back to God in genuine repentance.
Consider, for example, the prayer of repentance David wrote after his adultery with Bathsheba. It is recorded in Psalm 51, "Be gracious to me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
Keep in mind also that during most of his life, David lived in a constant awareness of God, and put God as his first priority.
I think the message of David's life for you and me is that there is no sin so dark and hideous that it can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ — if you we are willing to repent and reach out to God in faith. And that, my friends, is truly good news!
Let's end where we began, with Psalm 27. It begins with these words, "The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life, whom shall I dread?" David was not afraid of life.
The Psalm concludes with these words, He writes, "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living." David was not afraid of death. The two greatest fears of mankind are life and death. David feared neither because he trusted in the Lord. Do you?